Mother describes family living ‘hand to mouth’ during coronavirus lockdown

A woman who cares full-time for her autistic son has described how her family is living “hand to mouth” during the coronavirus lockdown.

Helen Baker said earnings made by her taxi driver husband Chris have dried up during the outbreak and they are worrying about how they will cope.

Her comments came as charity Action for Children warned that many families are a pay cheque away from going without food and said its staff helping families to access emergency essentials are “overwhelmed” by the “sheer desperation” they are seeing.

Research carried out by the charity suggests few have savings to help see them through the crisis.

Coronavirus – Wed Apr 23, 2020
Helen Baker with her husband Chris and son Sam (Family handout/PA)

Mrs Baker, 50, who lives with her husband and seven-year-old son Sam in Paignton, Devon, said: “We’re literally living hand to mouth and when my husband said he’d only had a couple of driving jobs in a day, I didn’t know what to do.

“We don’t have any savings to fall back on and my husband’s been applying for jobs left, right and centre but everyone is scrambling for the same jobs.

“We’re frustrated and worried. This is quite a lonely place – it’s a struggle to get anything – everything’s a struggle, and it looks like it could get worse.

“Our main worry is if it comes to the point where money runs out. What if we can’t put food on the table or how long before we can get Universal Credit? What if we get ill and are stuck in lockdown?

“Nobody has an answer.”

More than 8.5 million children were living in families who had less than £1,500 in savings – or none at all – between 2015-18, analysis carried out by the charity of existing data held by the Department for Work and Pensions suggests.

There is also a “stark” North-South divide, with parents in the North East most likely to have little or no savings, the research by the charity indicates.

Action for Children deputy chief executive Carol Iddon said: “Millions of vulnerable families with children were struggling to put food on the table even before they were hit by the economic impact of this once-in-a-generation health crisis.

“A month into lockdown, they are hanging by a thread.

“Action for Children’s frontline staff are battling to help frightened families come out the other side of this but are overwhelmed by the sheer desperation of those who are only a pay cheque away from no longer being able to keep their children and babies warm and well fed.

“With so many families close to breaking point and many more on the breadline, we’re supporting struggling families all over the country through our emergency appeal to help them pay for essentials, and are asking people to donate to Action for Children.

“But the Government must act too, and use the most effective way we have of getting help to children – by increasing child benefit by £10 a week.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We are doing whatever it takes to ensure people are supported through these unprecedented times, implementing an enormous package of measures to do so.

“Widespread support is available, including increased Universal Credit payments, contributory benefits, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-employment Income Support Scheme, Statutory Sick Pay, mortgage holidays and greater protection for renters.”

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